Ashmont fire still rages more than four hours after firefighters first responded

Fire on Dorchester Avenue in Ashmont

UPDATE: The fire continued to burn overnight and into Thursday.

John Costello forwards this photo by Della C. of the Treadmark fire at 6:40 p.m. Firefighters responded to the nearly complete residential building at 2:30 p.m.



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    Just the beginnng

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    There's going to be more fires like this and maybe worse. Developers building dense residences, higher than three stories, with cheap materials. In the past buildings constructed out of brick and steel were done this way for a reason. Now buildings over three stories with wood frame is asking for trouble. And please, no stupid comments about sprinklers because they are overrated and generally are useless the bigger the building.

    Such a disaster! I'm watching

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    Such a disaster! I'm watching it on the news at 10:20pm and that is one thirsty building. Water just pouring down the windows and not seeming yo make a dent in the fire. Hate to say it, but probably lucky that this happened before people moved in to this tinderbox.

    You are spot on. The lower

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    You are spot on. The lower income the neighborhood, the cheaper materials for building. Not like Millennium Tower, Ink Block, and all those other swanky Seaport Lux Units.

    Well when you

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    Forced by the Gov to subsidize a portion of the building, the builders will look to reduce cost. Hence cheaper building materials.


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    They're stickbuilding like crazy because it means more profits, not because of the subsidized units. It's a national trend, not solely confined to Boston.

    You just proved my point

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    Building with steel = reduction in profits
    Subsidizing units = reduction in profits

    They both are taken into account when planning.


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    A large number of "luxury" buildings have recently gone up in Allston and Brighton that are clearly big enough buildings that they should have used concrete and steel framing. Instead they used pressed wood. Not only does that make the buildings more flamable, but it also means there is almost no sound mitigation. I don't just mean loud steroes, but someone slamming the door in a first floor unit can be felt 5 floors up. It's a horrible, horrible way to build. And is being done simply to over-maximize profits for developers.

    Both of you are wrong

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    It definitely isn't a "government subsidy" issue nor is it intended to "maximize profits". It's simply a recognition that "stick built" housing up to a reasonable height, as recognized in the building code, allows costs to be kept in check to provide units that sell at a reasonable price, for Boston. It's a compromise among developers, unions and concerned neighborhood groups. The most important step now is to find out why the sprinklers weren't working. Thankfully this happened before occupancy. The hyperbolic statements at either end of the political spectrum aren't helpful at this point.

    SURE WHY NOT???!!! WHO

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    The safety system had not yet

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    The safety system had not yet been completed because the building was under construction. Additionally I would speculate that the drywall was not yet installed in full. Between the lack of drywall which is a firestop and the lack of a sprinkler system the fire spread far more rapidly than it would have otherwise.

    The firecode does not make buildings fireproof, it simply slows the spread of a fire to help people get out in time.


    Being style matches unit cost. You can't expect a building with units selling at $900k to be built the same as one going for $450k.

    Thankfully we have strict building codes in this state & town so both buildings are safe. The fire yesterday happened in a building not yet complete. New construction in Boston at any price point is safe. ISD and building codes are onerous for a reason.

    Huh? Lower income

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    Huh? Lower income neighborhood? Ashmont and Ashmont Hill? Lol, OK. BTW, I am staring at a bunch of these style buildings going up near Lechmere in Cambridge right now, there is one going up right in Chinatown, at least one of the buildings around the ink block have been this style of construction, as have buildings across the city.

    I think the question is

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    At what point in the development process are the fire protection and life safety systems installed and operational? The building isn't yet complete so it's possible that those systems weren't ready yet.

    Yes but

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    The systems in residential are far less coverage (water volume) than most commercial systems. Ironic since the commercial building is mostly noncombustible , and those commercial system exists mostly to protect property. but these are giant matchsticks get systems that are more to only slow fire for escape of occupants

    They are

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    But, they had yet to be activated in this building, as it was still under final construction (with inspection next week).


    There's so much resin in that wood, it's said to be 'more fireproof' than steel - although I have not seen the actual data.

    It was also a test, I think,

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    It was also a test, I think, to push forward on buildings like this one - first floor of concrete/steel with wood up to six floors. Also, that had two concrete cores, unlike this. To quote Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn:

    "It was a very difficult fire to fight," Finn said. "It's lightweight construction, which makes it very dangerous for us, which means the components are smaller. (The components) are 2x4, which is what you would see in your own residential home versus a major development like this."

    "Steel is usually the first five or six stories," Finn said. "This is basically, under the building code, you can build one story of steel or concrete and you can raise up four stories of wooden construction. In the size and scope of this building, it's nothing but a tinderbox." Finn added that they were fortunate the fire started on top, instead of below and traveled like it did.

    Not quite

    I know a lot about that building. The timbers are so big (4'*2' about) that it's really difficult to light them on fire - imagine trying to light a tree using a match. They will burn, don't get my wrong, but so will concrete and steel. The thing that makes then safer than steel is that steel immediately loses strength if it gets too hot, and then the building collapses. Mass timber will char around the outside, but the core strength will remain, so the building takes much longer to collapse, if it does at all.


    hate to say, but it could have been worse. A week before I went to Raleigh the same thing happened, but the complex was 'less finished' - so more oxygen for the fire. Whole thing burned to the ground and damaged all surrounding buildings. (

    As the previous commented said - these are just stacks of kindling until the sprinkler systems (or even just fire alarms) are installed....

    Ibizia On The Ave.

    This is a tough break for those who had purchased their units and for those who were going to occupy the affordable units.

    This is going to send ripples through both the development and the real estate community of a good chuck of Boston for the next many months.

    Knowing the respect that Jim Keefe and the rest of the Trinity Financial people have in the community, this is very tough for them and on the good people of Ashmont who peeped nary a NIMBY objection for this development.

    Legally this building has to be rebuilt owing to the contracts in place, since all of the condo units had been sold.

    Let's hope that things move along quickly and people can get their homes and lives going again.

    Many innocent lives could

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    Many innocent lives could have been lost if this fire trap had been fully occupied by residents and your concern is nimbyism? Shame on you.

    On The Fire Trap Comment and NIMBYism

    The building has a sprinkler system and full alarms and if it had been occupied all systems would have been in place. In most residential buildings the sprinklers are designed for life safety, not property preservation. A big apartment building right next to 128 in Peabody went up a few years ago because some ding dong kept flinging his Marlboro Reds into the mulch. That fire went from the first floor up and did not start from the top. Everyone got out owing to the fire codes and the life safety system.

    If you notice that after 18 hours, the building is still standing and the fire was contained to the top floor and the roof. Combustion happens and if you hear an alarm, and the sprinklers come on, then is typically the time to leave. If you stay in a building for 18 hours while its on fire, maybe you deserve to be roasted. This building isn't some 1880's Manchester / Lowell / Lawrence tinder keg waiting to go up. It was built to code.

    As far as the Nimbyism goes. A private developer came along a worked with the community to build more affordable units than required. The neighborhood said sure. Go ahead. No screaming and yelling about shadows, parking, "those people", etc.

    It is a mark of goodness on the people who lived in and around Ashmont, for decades, who have endured the taunts of "Oh, you grew up in Dorchester?" and then they hear the silver being hid, that they would rally around this development and its older sibling across the street, The Carruth knowing the benefit that it would bring to the area.

    Most of the development team live in and around the neighborhood. They could live at Black Rock or on Avon Hill, but they choose to work in their own area. It is a shame I didn't buy on Carruth Street or Lombard Street when I had the chance.

    So shame on you Anon, you obviously have knee jerk responses to things you don't understand.

    In addition

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    The fire was started by a piece of construction equipment, or so it seems. Not by a final piece of the building.

    Part of why construction is the most fire-prone phase of a building's lifetime.

    Interesting question

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    Are the contracts still valid? I'm guessing nobody has "closed" on a place yet, as they weren't done. A P&S was probably signed, but doubt any deeds were filed.

    Well said, John

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    This project, like the Carruth building across the street, was among the most important for Trinity since Jim Keefe and many on the Trinity team are longtime residents of Ashmont. I feel terrible for them, the market rate and affordable residents who were due to move in soon and the businesses planning to open on the ground floor.

    This will take many months to work out among all the parties and will lead to many conversations about just this type of housing development where they are trying to go stick-built (rather than steel) to keep development costs lower and make the housing more affordable. I hope it can get resolved as quickly as reasonably possible so the neighborhood isn't stuck with a burned out (or knocked down) building.

    Wish you had just said...

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    The residents.

    That's the issue with people and this stigma of being "low income" because they live in an affordable unit. Housing prices are out of control in most major cities and in Boston a one bedroom costs $1400+ to rent. Most housing is virtually unaffordable for people making even a modest salary of $50-60k. Especially for younger graduates who have student loan debt,

    Holy crap

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    The firefighting foam is made from proteins extracted from Wastewater Treatment Facilities. So don't go putting your hands in your mouth.

    Those who have purchased

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    Those who have purchased condos in this building may want to reconsider living in it once it's rebuilt if the developer fails to improve safety conditions. Upper floors made of wood in a new construction building that was to be densely populated? Scary. I feel sorry for those who were about to move in and for the nearby residents who are displaced and have to deal with toxic smoke damage to their homes. Hope firefighters stay safe while they're continuing to keep this book of matches disaster under control.

    Union workers?

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    Isnt this the building that wouldnt allow Union workers to work on it?

    Sprinklers renovated in

    I recently gutted and renovated a triple decker. Had to put in a sprinkler system. Common misconception is that when one sprinkler triggers, they all do, but this isn't true anywhere. Each individual sprinkler needs to be heat activated in order to begin spraying. This is to direct the water where it is needed.

    The small residential ones are odd setups. You have to put two massive water tanks in your basement (too heavy for roof). Since they're in the basement, it means you also need a pump. This means you need electricity My fire alarm system is battery backup, but the sprinkler pump is not. So if the power is cut due to the fire destroying wires, the pump won't run and the sprinkler system is useless. Yes, this is to code and how they are required to be built. I can tell you that No one in Boston is putting in battery backup. And even worse, they're not getting inspected at all, ever.

    You can also hard pipe to the

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    You can also hard pipe to the street, but on small associations, most developers don't because it is twice as expensive as a tank system. The only time I've seen hard pipe systems in small buildings is when they get rid of a second egress.

    Under construction they are at their most vulnerable

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    Fire experts say that timber-frame buildings are just as safe as steel or concrete ones when finished, with their non-combustible cladding and sprinkler systems all in place. But it is while they are under construction that they are at their most vulnerable—to arsonists as well as accidents.

    Here is the article from that quote...


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    What does this mean for the building?